Monthly Archives: January 2013

Want a Flat Tummy? Don’t Do Sit-Ups or Crunches (Part 3)

shutterstock_55118254By Marianne Ryan PT, OCS
Clinical Director MRPT Physical Therapy

Is your New Year’s Resolution “I want a Flat Tummy?”
This is the final article of the 3 part series.

Many people have problems with pelvic stability and you must have a stable pelvis if you want that flat tummy look.

If you have ever had a baby, you are especially likely to have experienced this problem. During pregnancy, hormones are released that cause the ligaments around your pelvis to soften, getting your body ready to deliver your baby. In some women this can cause severe and frequent pain in the buttock area or at the front of the pelvis. Sometimes this pain and instability can continue for many years.

And yes, Men can develop unstable pelvises too! So guys pay attention, these exercises will help you flatten that gut.

We gave you 2 core activation exercises in part two of this series to get you on the road to that flat tummy look. Now you will learn 3 more advanced exercises to try after you have mastered the activation exercises. The 3 exercises below will help you develop pelvic stability.

(Note: Please read disclaimer prior to performing exercises)

For all these exercises, working on a firm surface is a must – a blanket/comforter on the floor or a yoga mat is perfect.

THE BRIDGEBlock Girl Pelvic Tilt

  • For this exercise, you need to be lying comfortably on your back. Your head and arms should be relaxed with your knees and hips bent. Put your weight on the heels of your feet.
  • Lift your bottom off the floor, aiming for a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Hold for a count of 3, if you can. Then slowly lower your body to the start position.
  • Work up to holding the bridge position for 10 counts, then repeat 10 times.

THE BUTT LIFTBlog Girl Leg Raise

This is a great exercise for your buttock area, working the muscles that stabilize your pelvis.

  • Lie on your tummy, with a pillow supporting it on a firm, comfortable surface. Make sure your head is down and arms are relaxed. Use a towel roll to support your forehead.
  • Bend one knee to 90 degrees, with your toes pointed towards the ceiling.
  • Lift your knee up off the floor. Keep your back muscle relaxed and feel for a strong contraction in your buttocks. Make sure you don’t rotate your hips or arch your back as you lift your leg.
  • Work up to holding this position for 10 counts, then repeat 10 times

THE CLAMclam_edited

  • For this exercise, you need to lie on your side. Your knees and hips are bent comfortably, head relaxed, heels together.
  • Tie an exercise band around your thighs. Start with the lightest resistance and gradually work up to heavier resistance as you get stronger.
  • Keeping your heels together, gently lift your top knee away from your other knee. This should be a small movement, stop lifting once your knee is at the same level as your hip. Make sure to keep your 2 knees lined up.
  • You should feel your outer buttock area working strongly.
  • Work up to holding this position for 10 counts, then repeat 10 times,

It is important to remember that none of these exercises should give you any pain or discomfort – if they do, make sure to ask for advice from your physical therapist. If you do these exercises daily, you will be well on your way to a more stable pelvis, and a flat tummy.

If you missed previous posts of this series click here part one and part two.

Note: Physical Therapy exercise pictures copyright VHI

Want a Flat Tummy? Don’t Do Sit-Ups or Crunches (Part 2)

Core ex ball shutterstock_1110926[1]By Marianne Ryan PT, OCS
Clinical Director MRPT Physical Therapy                                 

It’s New Year’s resolution time, and you want a flat tummy. Do you want to learn safer exercises to flatten your tummy?

In a previous post, we’ve talked about why crunches and sit-ups are not such a good idea and how we need to be careful of exercises that cause downward pressure on our pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles. Our core muscles are very important, and we need them to be strong to support our backs, help with stability throughout our bodies, as well as maintain normal bladder and bowel control.

So, how can we work out our abdominals safely?

The thing to keep in mind is that we have a few different groups of abdominal muscles. We are trying to avoid strongly activating the top group of muscles. This is the ‘six-pack’ group of muscles. It works when you cough and sneeze, and when you do sit-ups or crunches. It is also guilty of pushing our pelvic floor downwards, eventually causing it to fatigue, and losing it’s “trampoline like” support. Fatigued pelvic floor muscles can not support the internal organs, and will hang loosely like a hammock.

We discussed how your pelvic floor muscles act together with your lower abdominal muscles and how they are supposed to contract automatically at the same time. Instead of doing sit-ups, we are going to teach you how to activate your lower group of abdominal muscles. These deep muscles, called the Transverse Abdominus, wrap around the lower portion of our abdomen and act like a natural corset, attaching onto our spine.

How do we activate this deep set of muscles?

(Note: Please read disclaimer prior to performing exercises)


First, we have to find them with an exercise that will “activate” or turn on your core muscles.


  • Lie comfortably on your back on a firm surface. Keep your head relaxed. You may use a low pillow if you like.
  • Bend your knees and hips, keeping your feet flat on the ground, hip width apart.
  • Make sure you have the normal curve in your lower spine – try sliding your flat hand under your lower back to assure there is a small space.
  • Place your hands on the top part of your panty line, just inside your pelvic bones.
  • Now, perform a gentle pelvic floor contraction, as if you are trying to stop the flow of 1 or 2 drops of urine. At the same time feel your lower tummy move towards your spine. Keep breathing normally and quietly. Try to hold that contraction for 10 seconds.
  • Remember to be gentle! If your head has lifted, then the contraction is too strong – you don’t want to get those upper abdominal muscles working.

Got it? If you’re having trouble, try doing the same thing lying on your side. Let your tummy relax and bulge outwards, keep your hands on the top of your panty line, and feel your tummy gently draw in towards your spine as you perform a pelvic floor contraction.

Now, when you have the idea, work up to doing 10 of these in a row, with a 20 second rest in between each contraction.

When you can do 10 of these muscle activations in a row, you are ready to move on to something a little more difficult:

Blog Girl Leg Slide Back

  • Again, lying comfortably on your back with your legs straight.
  • First contract your deep abdominal muscles by doing the “pelvic-core starter” exercise (above). Place your hands on your panty line and feel your lower tummy drawing in towards your spine. Keep your hands there to monitor control, don’t let your pelvis wiggle.
  • Keeping that contraction, slowly slide one heel along the ground towards your buttock, until your knee is bent at a right angle and then slowly back down again.
  • Make sure you don’t wiggle your pelvis and maintain the normal curve in your lower back!
  • Repeat with the other leg.
  • Do this 10 times on each leg and work up to 3 sets of 10.

Well done! You are now well on your way to a strong core, the safe way!

Stay tuned for our next post, we will give you a few more exercises to try in part 3.

If you miss part one of this three part series click here to read it.

Note: Physical Therapy exercise pictures copyright VHI

Want a Flat Tummy? Don’t Do Sit-Ups or Crunches (Part 1)

Sit Up

By Marianne Ryan PT, OCS
Clinical Director MRPT Physical Therapy

Is it your New Year’s resolution to have a nice flat tummy?

Think twice before you crunch!

I bet you didn’t know that sit ups and crunches can damage your pelvic floor muscles which prevents you from getting that flat tummy look.

This blog is part of a 3 part series on how to develop a flat tummy without doing abdominals crunches. We will teach you some safe exercises which will help you get that desired result.

For most of us, abdominal crunches are on life’s list of things we know we really should do, but are not really that much fun – like flossing our teeth or sprinkling flax seeds on everything we eat.  Well, maybe what I am going to tell you will be good news – ABDOMINAL CRUNCHES CAN BE BAD FOR YOU!

The problem is not so much what these types of exercises are doing to your six-pack abdominal muscles, but the effect they are having on your pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles. These two muscle groups work together to help keep the lower part of your body stable so you can move more efficiently.

Your pelvic floor is shaped like a little hammock connecting the back and front of the pelvis; and it is meant to act like a trampoline. It is composed of a group of muscles whose job it is to support our abdominal contents, maintain bladder and bowel control and support healthy sexual function. When the pelvic floor muscles contract your deep or lower abdominals should contract at the same time, forming the base and front part of your core muscles. 

When you do a sit up or, an abdominal crunch,  the pressure in your abdomen rises. Your pelvic floor should contract strongly and automatically, like a trampoline, to match the increasing pressure.  If you have weakness in your pelvic floor, the increased pressure will hone in on that area, and can worsen the weakness and cause serious problems, including problems with bladder and bowel control, organ prolapse and pain in the pelvis and lower back.

Also, performing sit ups or crunches can cause your upper abdominals to become over trained and much stronger than your lower abdominal and pelvic floor muscles; resulting in muscle imbalances. If this happens, each time you perform a sit up, the upper abdominal wall tightens and causes funnel pressure which presses down on the lower tummy and pelvic floor muscles. So, you run the risk of developing a little pot belly and a droopy pelvic floor.

The pelvic floor and your deep abdominal muscles are not normally trained to withstand the prolonged pressure created by repetitive crunches. It’s an endurance problem. Pelvic floor muscles can fatigue easily and lose its “trampoline like” effect of matching the downward pressure placed on it by the internal organs.tooth_paste

Take a toothpaste tube; make sure it’s fairly full. Now make it do a crunch – go right ahead and bend it in half! The lid represents a strong pelvic floor. Okay, now do it again with the lid off. Get the picture?

This doesn’t mean you get out of exercising your abdominal muscles altogether!

In the next 2 posts you will learn a great way of working out your abdominal muscles while keeping your pelvic floor safe.